John Weber NPPC president during the World Pork Expo discusses the top legislative issues the organization is facing this year

John Weber, NPPC president, during the World Pork Expo discusses the top legislative issues the organization is facing this year.

5 Noteworthy discussions from World Pork Expo

This year’s World Pork Expo reflected an optimistic tone as more than 20,000 producers and ag professionals, including 1,100 international guests from 35 countries, convened at the state fairgrounds in Des Moines, June 8-10. Expo gives pork producers the opportunity to collect and share information, whether it occurs one-on-one, within a seminar or consulting with one of the nation’s leading pork experts. 

Here are five top discussion worth noting:

1. Pork Quality Assurance Plus program 3.O:

At the World Pork Expo, newly elected National Pork Board president and North Carolina pork producer Jan Archer introduced the changes coming to the Pork Quality Assurance Plus program.

“PQA plus was launched in 1989. Since then, it has evolved, it has expanded and it has grown to be part of our pork producers’ commitment to demonstrating their continuous improvement on education every day,” explains Archer.

Every three years, the National Pork Board reviews the PQA Plus program. The updated program, effective June 8, reflects pork producers’ commitment to continuous improvement and more fully incorporates the six We Care ethical principles and the role of caretakers.

Archer discussed the PQA Plus 3.0 enhancements:

  • The We Care ethical principles now serve as program chapters.
  • The 10 Good production Practices are now sub-chapters and align with a caretaker’s daily flow of responsibilities.
  • The site assessment now aligns with the Common Swine Industry Audit.
  • Flexibility in the program allows for customization and alignment with a farm’s standard operating procedures.
  • Online training is divided into 14 individual modules that range from 2 to 14 minutes.
  • To help prepare for the implementation of FDA guidance 209 and 213 on Jan. 1, 2017, a new 12-page Responsible Antibiotics Use Guide accompanies the new version of PQA Plus.

New research information has been incorporated to increase the program’s effectiveness and to help ensure its validity with customers and consumers. Archer explained the PQA Plus 3.O now takes the individual from the farm entrance, into the barns and finishing with the consumer. Each step incorporates Good Production Practices by addressing biosecurity, working with veterinarians, working with the pigs, ensuring workers’ safety, performing recordkeeping, taking care of the environment and interacting with the community and consumers.

2. Pork, the Other White Meat lawsuit pending:

National Pork Producer Council president John Weber presented the update on the Pork, the Other White Meat court case.  Currently, the lawsuit is pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbus, explains Weber. 

The Humane Society of the United States; a lone Iowa farmer –who may or may not raise pigs; - and the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement in 2012 filed a lawsuit against USDA over the National Pork Producer Council purchasing the Other White Meat trademark assets from the National Pork Board. Initially, USDA defended the lawsuit, and a U.S. District Court dismissed it for lack of standing, but a federal appeals court in August 2015 reinstated the suit. However, late last summer the NPPC learned the USDA was going to settle with HSUS, an action NPPC and pork producers did not support. The NPPC immediately took action to intervene but originally the organization was told by the U.S. Dept. of Justice they could not intervene.

As part of that review process, the NPB was directed to utilize checkoff funds to contract an independent valuation of the current value of the trademarks. The investment value of the four trademarks is between $113 million and $132 million, higher than $35 million purchase price.

In May, the Court ruled that the NPPC can intervene in the lawsuit. The NPPC feels strongly the Other White Meat trademarks belong to the NPB. Weber says “NPPC opposes efforts by individuals unaffiliated and third parties to undo this sale which would call into question the legitimacy of all commodity checkoff programs and all federal approved contracts. NPPC is encouraging USDA to forcefully and aggressively defend the sale and we oppose on any settlement with HSUS.”

The NPPC has tried to engage USDA and Dept. of Justice but meant with mediocre results. Therefore, NPPC has intervened with the case and pork producers can be ensured they will be well represented, stresses Weber.

3. Waters of the U.S. regulation stalled:

The Waters of the U.S. rule is a hot topic, and it doesn’t appear to be cooling off anytime soon. The purpose for rewriting WOTUS was to redefine what constitutes ‘waters of the U.S.’.

“As the rule was released we know immediately it would be troublesome not only for pork producers but all of agriculture.” NPPC president John Weber says “Water runs downhill. It is all encompassing. It is going to impact not only agriculture but lot of industries around the country that has any type of drainage systems.”

As it stands, simple farming practices such as applying manure will require a Clean Water Act permit because the broad interruption categorizes almost every water body as waters of the U.S., notes Weber.

Since WOTUS went into effect on Aug. 28, 2015, the National Pork Producers Council believes the rule has significant technical problems, and the process EPA and the Corps of Engineers undertook to develop the rule violated basic due process and long-standing procedural protections.

NPPC is urging Congress and the Obama administration to withdraw the rule, and work with all affected stakeholders, including the agricultural community, to develop a rule that clarifies what waters are and are not jurisdictional in a manner consistent with the Supreme Court’s rulings and that is workable for all stakeholders. The WOTUS rule is currently on nationwide stay after multiple lawsuits were filed in opposition to the rule that has been seen as an “overreaching land grab.”

A recent Supreme Court decision ruled that landowners can challenge in court the wetlands determinations made by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The ruling was on a case involving three Minnesota peat mining companies that wanted to expand their operations. The Corps of Engineers determined that there were wetlands on some of the companies’ land even though the acreage was more than 100 miles from the nearest navigable water.

Once WOTUS went into effect, NPPC and many other groups file lawsuits.  A nationwide stay was issued by the Court to stop the implementation of the rule until it can be reviewed and the lawsuits can be heard.

Weber says, “NPPC would like to see the rule to be withdrawn. In NPPC’s opinion, the U.S. Environment Protection Agency needs to sit down with these industries to discuss what will work and what will not before writing the rule.”

 4. GIPSA rule returns

The packer ban and Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rule is back but the complete legislative details have yet to be released by USDA, says NPPC vice president Vice President Jim Heimerl.

USDA is re-proposing parts of the so-called GIPSA (Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration) Rule, which first was proposed in 2010 to implement provisions included in the 2008 Farm Bill. The regulations, however, went well beyond the Farm Bill provisions and would have had a significant negative effect on the livestock industry, according to analyses. A November 2010 Informa Economics study of the rule found it would have cost the pork industry more than $330 million annually.

While the currently final details are not officially released, NPPC is concern the revised GIPSA rule will mirror the 2010 proposal, which will allow the agency administration to dictate terms of private contracts.  As pointed out then, the proposed rule would limit farmers’ ability to get sell animals and get farm finances. It would raise consumer prices, reduce choices and lead to more vertical integration.

If and when the version of GIPSAs is released, the NPPC is asking for at a minimum 90 day comment period.

5. Mandatory Reporting update

Pork producers have long relied on accurate and timely national marketing information to assist with their marketing decisions. The Livestock Mandatory Price Reporting (LMR) program, administrated by the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, helps brings transparency to the marketplace.

The Livestock Mandatory Reporting Act was authorized in 1999 and must be reauthorized by Congress every five years. The program was up for reauthorization in September 2015 and pork producers led by NPPC participate in the negotiation process, suggesting two revisions.

Craig Morris, Ph.D., USDA deputy administrator, livestock, poultry and seed program, commends pork producers for working towards consensuses early during the negotiation process.

As result, Morris says the proposed rule contains two revisions:

  • A new negotiated formula purchase category provides market participants with more specific information about buyer and seller interaction to better represents the market in which producers function.
  • Including late day hog purchases in the following day’s reports better represents the subsequent day’s market conditions and increases the volume of barrows and gilts shown in daily morning and afternoon purchase reports.

Morris says “Since, there were no negative comments in the proposed rule that was just published, we have already drafted the final rule and submitted it down to our office of general counsel for publications. Really, thanks to the swine industry for making sure the law Congress passed received broad support and passed through quite quickly. Hopefully, it will go in effect this fall. ”

Furthermore, Morris explains Congress in the reauthorization bill directed AMS to conduct a study on livestock mandatory reporting and on current livestock marketing practices to identify current legislation and regulatory recommendations needed in the next negotiation process scheduled for 2020. AMS is currently working on this report. 

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